In the mid-19th century, Jacob Abbott
(1803-1879) wrote a series of biographies as an introduction to famous men and women in history such as Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, etc.. ostensibly for children, but also appealing to adults. His books do one thing very well, and that is tell a dramatic story in a compelling narrative. His biography of Hannibal
is factually accurate in terms of the events, based as it is on ancient texts like that by Livy, it is comparable to Gibbon in style, though not nearly as detailed. Modern critics will rightly point to Abbott's antiquated Victorian-era morality lessons, but I think it provides a certain warm grandfatherly charm, and unintended humor. In any case it's easy to overlook Abbott's occasional commentary for the sake of the narrative of events.
focuses on the Second Punic War, the one in which Hannibal famously crossed the Alps with war elephants. The First and Third Punic War are covered in the first and last chapter by way of summary. This account is mostly a biography of Hannibal and so skims over other famous scenes and characters, but Hannibal was the Napoleon/Alexander of his day and thus the central figure of the Punic Wars. If you've only heard of Hannibal and want to know why he is so famous without reading Livy or a longer book this is a great way to go. Although there are some better modern books of this type, like by Harold Lamb and others
, this one is free online and has an audio version. The LibriVox recording
is well done, see also the map and engravings in the original book
[STB, 883, 04.2010]